Page last updated at 19:35 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009

Climate deal looks close, but may not halt warming

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Copenhagen

China's Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei (Image: AFP)
He Yafei says China is willing to "engage" on emissions monitoring

A deal at the UN climate summit looks more likely following a frantic day of behind the scenes diplomacy.

China signalled concessions on monitoring of emission curbs, and the US said it would commit money for developing countries.

Leaders are likely to have big choices to make when they meet on Friday.

However, a leaked document from the UN climate convention indicates the best deal likely here will not keep the temperature rise below 2C (3.6F).

Even if countries implement their biggest pledges, a rise of 3C (5.4F) is indicated, it concluded.

Money matters

Despite many expressions of concern about projections of climate change, finance has emerged as an issue more likely to make or break a deal than emission pledges.

Delegates from 193 nations are in Copenhagen to negotiate an agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, in order to prevent dangerous climate change
Developing nations want rich nations to cut emissions by at least 25% by 2020 - rich nations are reluctant to go so far and want developing countries to curb emissions too
The US will not accept legally binding emissions cuts unless China does the same. China has been vague on allowing international scrutiny of its emission cuts
Ongoing disagreement on how funds to mitigate and adapt to climate change will be provided. Poor nations want direct aid, while the West favours schemes like carbon trading

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her administration was prepared to help establish funding of $100bn a year for developing countries if a deal emerges here that meets US requirements.

"In the context of a strong accord in which all major economies pledge meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to those actions, the US is prepared to work with other countries towards a goal of mobilising $100bn a year to address the needs of developing countries."

The key demand is "transparency" from China, seen as a must if the US Senate is to pass legislation controlling emissions.

But the Beijing government has been hostile to this notion; and the issue had emerged as, in Mrs Clinton's words, a "deal-breaker".

But here, Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei has said China was ready to engage in "dialogue and co-operation that is not intrusive, that does not infringe on China's sovereignty."

Earlier, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had called for "all of us, developed and developing countries, to be flexible" on verification.

He indicated the possibility of setting up an international mechanism for monitoring emission cuts.

Emissions gap

Meanwhile, a leaked document prepared by the UN climate convention secretariat confirms that current pledges on cutting greenhouse gas emissions are almost certainly not enough to keep the rise in the global average temperature within 2C.


The analysis says that to achieve that goal, global emissions should be kept at or below of 44 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2020.

But if enacted, the current maximum pledges from developed countries would leave emissions 1.9Gt above that figure; minimum pledges would mean missing the target by 4.2Gt.

Unless this gap is closed, it says - for example by developed nations raising their current overall offer to a cut of 30% from 1990 levels by 2020 - global emissions will "remain on an unsustainable pathway that could lead to concentrations equal or above 550ppm, with the related temperature rise around 3C."

The analysis was based on a number of recent studies, notably the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook.

Joss Garman of Greenpeace commented: "The UN is admitting in private that the pledges made by world leaders would lead to a 3C rise in temperatures.

"Every politician in Copenhagen is now put on notice. They have one day left to step up or they will forever be remembered as the people who let this happen."

Simply the best?

Developing countries earlier won several key concessions.

The documents that will go before leaders on Friday will, sources say, be the latest versions of texts on which governments have been negotiating since the beginning of the year.

The Danish hosts have repeatedly come under fire from developing countries during the meeting for trying to introduce their own new documents.

Sources indicated that other leaders including UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd had effectively taken over the diplomatic push, with President Obama speaking with other leaders by phone.

Mr Rudd and French President Nicolas Sarkozy indicated they were prepared to make further emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol, as developing countries have been demanding.

"If we keep on heading where we're going, we are heading for failure," said Mr Sarkozy.

"So people want to keep Kyoto - OK, let's keep Kyoto. But let us agree on an overall political umbrella."

There are indications that some poor nations most vulnerable to climate change are unhappy with the financial package proposed by Mrs Clinton, which is very similar to the proposal made on Wednesday by Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi.

Lesotho's chief negotiator Bruno Sekoli, who has chaired the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) group here, said the money must be separate from and additional to overseas development aid.

"We cannot be asked to choose between hospitals and schools on the one hand, and climate security on the other," he said.

But other countries appear to be regarding it as the best they are likely to get.

Discussions on the existing texts are ongoing, with ministers and negotiators attempting to resolve some of the outstanding issues before heads of state and government come together on Friday morning.

The EU is holding a meeting with "relevant players" - understood to include Brazil, China, India and the US - after leaders dine with the Danish royal family.

EU leaders are likely to discuss - and perhaps announce a decision on - whether they will raise their pledge on cutting emissions by 2020 from 20% to 30%.

But it appears that some of the most important issues may not be resolved before presidents and prime ministers convene.

Some observers are adamant that the final document must include a mandate to agree a new legally binding treaty by the end of the year at the latest.

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